August 31, 2011 On Tuesday, a Maryland man who falsely claimed that he had served with the U.S. Special Forces and spent 12 years teaching homeland security experts was sentenced to 21 months in prison after entering a plea of guilty on March 29 to a single count of wire fraud in a federal court in Baltimore.
William G. Hillar’s clients included the FBI’s Chicago branch and the Illinois State Police. Others listed in court documents include the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the University of Oregon, and a University in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo J. Wise submitted.a sentencing memorandum stating that over a span of 12 years, Hillar was paid “at least $171,415 for teaching leading workshops, giving speeches and conducting training on counter-terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and related topics.” As part of his plea, Hillar agreed to pay back the money he made by lecturing universities, soldiers, and federal and local law enforcement agencies while falsely claiming he was a counter-terrorism expert and had earned doctorate from the University of Oregon.
On Hillar’s website, he promoted himself as an expert in international trafficking and counterterrorism. He claimed to be a retired Special Forces colonel who served in Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America. Traveling the country, Hillar shared his experiences with charity groups, college students and law enforcement agencies. Hillar was paid to teach classes at universities, including five years at the prestigious Monterey Institute for International Studies.
After learning of problems with Hillar’s background, a retired Army Special Forces Soldier Jeff Hinton began an investigation in 2009 that eventually exposed the truth. When students confronted Hillar about his military background, he denied ever claiming to be a Green Beret, saying he was just an adviser to the service.
When Bill Hillar spoke about international human trafficking, he added a personal touch. He told his students his firsthand experience, when his own daughter was abducted in Asia in 1988 and sold into the sex-slave trade. His harrowing experince included the six months he spent trying to find and rescue her, but she died in captivity.
One angry student wrote on a Monterey Institute website that she cried when Hillar told her class the story about his abducted daughter who was killed by human traffickers. She wanted to know if Monterey Institute was going to refund the money for the class. Other students said the experience was deeper for them, expressing they didn’t know if they would ever get over the lies.
Hillar’s case although extreme, is not as unique as many may think. If the public is attending a conference, lecture, or class, it is time well spent to at least google the speaker to see his/her credentials. What makes the person qualified to speak on the topic?